Anne and Mark O’Sullivan lured back to family home believing dispute over inheritance could be settled
A note recovered by gardaí from the scene of a murder-double suicide has indicated a father and son furious over a disputed family will, also blamed locals for advice they were believed to have offered about not splitting up a €2m farm holding.
The revelation came as gardaí have commenced interviews with heartbroken Anne O’Sullivan (60) who saw her eldest son, Mark (25), ambushed and shot by his father, Tadg (59), and younger brother, Diarmuid (23), at the family farm at Assolas outside Kanturk in north Cork on October 26.
Mrs O’Sullivan, who has been battling serious health problems in recent months, is being interviewed by gardaí sensitive to the trauma the triple tragedy inflicted on her.
It is now believed Tadg, who worked in a Charleville garage, was the main influence in a dispute over a will relating to the family farm.
His younger son, Diarmuid, who was only to receive the allocation of a small field of poor land under the inheritance, felt he had effectively been excluded in favour of his older brother.
But despite his annoyance, it is now believed Diarmuid followed the lead taken by his father in the tragedy.
Mark, a trainee solicitor, was shot and killed following a confrontation with his father and younger brother in the bedroom of his Kanturk home.
The confrontation was sparked by a row over the inheritance of 115 acres.
A family feud over the farm dramatically escalated when details of a proposed will became known just over two weeks before the shootings.
After Mark’s shooting, Tadg and Diarmuid then went to a field some 600 metres from the Assolas farmhouse, beside an old fairy fort, and took their own lives.
Two .22 calibre rifles were found by their sides.
It has emerged Tadg had spoken about such tragedies and their impact on families on at least three previous occasions.
A man contacted gardaí about conversations he had with Tadg three occasions at the garage where the father of two worked.
In each case, Mr O’Sullivan asked about the legacy impact of such tragedies on surviving family members – specifically referencing one previous Irish murder-suicide.
Legal correspondence recovered from the Assolas farmhouse indicated a solicitor’s letter had been issued by Tadg O’Sullivan in relation to the land dispute.
Detectives now believe Anne and Mark O’Sullivan were deliberately lured back to the farmhouse on October 25.
Mark had taken his mother, a respected nurse who worked in Mallow, to Dublin for a medical appointment the previous week.
When they travelled back to north Cork, they did not immediately return to the family home.
They did return on the Sunday night before the triple tragedy, apparently having been led to believe that an amicable solution to the land dispute could be achieved.
Gardaí now fear Tadg O’Sullivan deliberately acted to bring them back to the house so a plan to attack his eldest son could be triggered.
A key element in this plan was a letter he sent his wife from a Cork solicitor in which he held out the hope of reaching a settlement over the will.
His wife received the letter three days before the tragedy and decided to return home with her elder son.
A local friend contacted her by text that evening to check if everything was alright.
Anne O’Sullivan heard the sound of shots from her eldest son’s bedroom just after 6am on the Monday morning and was horrified to discover him fatally wounded – her husband and younger son left the farmhouse armed with rifles.
Gardaí believe she was deliberately left unharmed.
The last words spoken to her before she fled to raise the alarm was a reference to the will and the inheritance.
Tadg and Diarmuid left a detailed note, found by Diarmuid’s body, which was marked for Anne’s attention.
This note blamed the tragedy on the will – and further claimed that advice believed to have been given by locals about not splitting the farm was also a feature in the tragedy.
Bizarrely, it also instructed Anne O’Sullivan to care for the family pets.
Letters from Tadg O’Sullivan have also been studied by detectives.
A letter written by Mark and recovered from the farmhouse underlined his fears that the dispute over the farm threatened to split the family.
He also voiced his private concerns at how upset his father and younger brother were over the dispute – and what potential consequences might arise.
Counselling support services are being made available for people in the north Cork community left traumatised by the triple tragedy.
Gardaí are awaiting the results of ballistic and forensic tests which they hope will help them piece together the precise sequence of events that led to the tragedy.
Mark died in a hail of gunfire when attacked in his bedroom, suffering up to seven shots.
The young law graduate had injuries to his hands – indicating he had fought for his life and desperately tried to protect himself.
After Mark’s shooting, Tadg and Diarmuid went to a field called ‘The Fort’ where they are suspected to have taken their own lives with .22 calibre hunting weapons. Their bodies were found lying just two metres apart.
A detailed personal note was found on Diarmuid’s body outlining his anguish at the inheritance dispute and the resulting family split.
It is believed the lengthy note found by Diarmuid’s body was written several hours before the triple shooting – indicating the attack was fully premeditated.
Elements of the note, which runs to a dozen pages, were described as “very upsetting” by one source and indicated Diarmuid may have been influenced by his father.
The family row escalated when details emerged of a proposed will which was seen to favour Mark with the farm inheritance.
Diarmuid is understood to have felt effectively excluded.
The disagreement over the farm inheritance dates back almost eight months with legal correspondence about the feud discovered in the farmhouse.
Diarmuid was deeply upset over the proposed terms of the will.
Tadhg was apparently very annoyed at the treatment of his younger son and the failure to reach a compromise over the inheritance.
While gardaí are treating the matter as a criminal investigation, they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
A file will be prepared for the North Cork Coroner with an inquest to be staged next year.
Both Tadg and Diarmuid died from single gunshot wounds to the head sustained at close range.